Times are changing for the Eau Claire music scene. Venues are closing (RIP House of Rock) and new ones are emerging (The Metro). Downtown business’ host shows most nights of the week. We have new musicians popping up all the time. I look forward to shedding some light on these talented folks. But, for my first chat with a passionate person, I wanted to take a look at someone behind the scenes.
This individual literally pulled out a map with his wife and crossed off states they didn’t want to move to. Then ended up debating a trek from Austin, Texas to Madison, Wisconsin. Instead, some band connections urged him to check out little ol’ Eau Claire. Boy am I glad he did, and so are many others! If you’re a performer looking to record your next album or even your first one, you’ll want to check out this awesome dude, Justin Green, and his crew at Toy Car Studios.
Justin’s studio just turned one year old this September, and is continuously growing. Heck, I don’t even play an instrument and the place feels warm and welcoming. Adorning the walls are records and posters and the space is jam packed with equipment I’m sure any performer would drool over (not literally, I hope). Nestled on Justin’s land, even a dog might come and greet you, which, who doesn’t love dogs?
Discovering Music Recording At A Young Age
His dad shared dreams with him of becoming a drummer, when Justin was a kiddo. “He would put on records on his record player and he would air drum songs. ‘Watch the intricacies,’ he’d say. He was crazy about how much he loved music, and I think it rubbed off on me at a pretty young age,” Justin exclaimed.
Justin’s love for music from his father continued to grow when he reached his teens. A trip to the studio with his dad sparked an interest in sound. while experimenting with a recorder on an old PC. “I was fascinated with the concept of being able to record a sound, play it back, and then be able to manipulate it, or add on top of it, or to it. So, I started going apesh*t with recording everything I could. I remember I’d record the dog breathing, trying to make it sound weird. I started doing research on how films would make their sounds,” he shared.
In addition to his father, many dudes that sat behind the desk in the industry inspired him, including legends Jeff Lynne and Alan Parsons. Soon, he was able to follow in their footsteps by learning all about music recording at The Recording Conservatory of Austin, where he’s brought these experiences with him to Eau Claire. “I got to intern at some of the world’s biggest studios. I did some work at Arlyn Studios, which is where Willie Nelson does a lot of his records. Sublime did ‘What I Got’ there, and Bonnie Raitt’s done a bunch of stuff there,” says Justin. He’s also interned with Orb Recording Studios, who has some clients you may be familiar with such as, Pentatonix, Justin Bieber, The Beach Boys, and Third Eye Blind (my favorite *sigh*) to name a few.
Birth Of Toy Car Studios
Besides sweet internships, the teachers really made his time there. One in particular, John Stinson, held one on one classes. He’d even show up and assist with Justin’s studio setup, making sure it was correct. Other teachers would arrive to class with real industry mixes to learn from. With all these amazing experiences, classes, and working in some of the best studios around, why move to Eau Claire? Austin was changing, venues closed with tech industries emerging. Justin and his wife decided a move only made sense, since many of his clients were from outside of Austin. After hearing about how great Eau Claire was from some band connections, they took a visit to see for themselves. “It was like, holy sh*t, this is what Austin’s been pretending to be for the last 20 years,” he said.
“The reason I have a studio now is because of John Stinson,” expresses Justin.
Shortly after their visit, the Green’s up and moved to Eau Claire. Then after a few short months, Toy Car Studios was born! A toy car featured in the music video Fake Love by Justin’s old band, the O Conquerors, was the inspiration for the studio name. You may even get to see the little toy car if you take a visit.
A Place For Everyone
With much support from the community, Toy Car Studios has become a place for a variety of musicians. He encourages new musicians to record and is open to helping them through the entire process. Justin’s studio manager Adam Accola notes, “We’ve had a couple people come in here or have even requested info from the studio that have never recorded before. Justin is really willing to work with new musicians, and people that are brand new to the recording industry. I think it’s a good place. Especially in Eau Claire, where we’ve got this budding music scene, to have someone like this that’s willing to work with those new bands.”
Something that sets the studio aside from others, is his passion for live music, and having space purely for it. Toy Car is currently looking to host shows for the community to attend. “For me, it’s about training the next generation of musicians. Right now I think we’re at a pretty big crossroads when it comes to digital vs. analog. I’d like to be part of teaching people just what analog and actually practicing your instrument and playing live in a room can do for your music. Live music is really important in the way that it’s how you harness your talent, that’s how you get stronger. If we start losing the live scene, which it’s feeling like we are, then we’re just going to only have that digital DJ option,” he expresses.
Toy Car Studios is certainly a gem in this city. In addition to offering recording opportunities to new and experienced musicians alike, a plan for educational outreach to local middle and high school aged kids is in the works. The hope is to encourage younger generations to make music and give them a place to do so comfortably.
“People collaborating, and working, and failing, is probably the most important part of art.” – Justin Green
If you’re looking for some weird effects, psych rock, indie jams, anything different than ‘the right way,’ Justin’s your guy. Contemplating the limitation of gear, he likes to create tunes that may not have been heard before. Hey, even if you’re not into that kind of thing, Toy Car Studios is all about doing what they can to ensure your music reaches its full potential. Looking to record for the first time or get into the sound engineering world? Justins’ got some words for ya. “There’s no right or wrong answers, and to, you know, just have fun with it. If something works be proud of it, stick with it, and don’t let other people tell you what’s right and wrong.”
If you’d like to learn more (although I think I’ve blabbered a lot), check out www.toycarstudios.com